I first wrote a post with this title about a year ago. I was intending to take you through the lifetime of a book project ‘in real time.’ Each project is different though, and the project I chose is still in its early stages so there isn’t much to report.
So while that’s taking shape, here are a handful of tips and suggestions for anyone thinking of creating a children’s book.
#1 Listen first, draw or write later!
Working on a childrens book? You can learn from listening to young children at their pace. These intelligent, brave people are happy to express their opinions and ideas. Learn to listen first, draw or write later.
This really means know your audience as well as you can. Take them seriously, as seriously as if they were CEOs or leaders. Remember that one day they might be! Find out all you can about child development, for instance. Observe young people and how they interact with others. These insights will inform your ideas.
Find out about how bookstores and publishers sell books for children. Do they aim at the children or the parents? Challenge your own opinions, and others’ about what works and what doesn’t. Most of all remember the books you loved as a child, and more importantly why you loved them.
Publishing is a team effort with each person playing a specific and vital role in the development of a book. It is also a space where one person with one idea can change everything.
Take diversity in Western publishing organisations. It has been discussed and argued for decades that a more diverse industry will be a more profitable one. But it hasn’t happened. On the other hand, is publishing in the huge markets like China or India as diverse as Europe or the US? Perhaps the timing of the idea and the practical need for action are not yet in sync.
Back to my main theme; to team or not to team. I have had the honour to work with a wide range of children’s publishing professionals, have taken my own ideas to them, or brainstormed ideas together and most of them turned out very well. On reflection it seems that ideas are the spark that activate certain people, while other people are the ones who activate ideas and teams into action. It’s always a great time to be a catalyst, or a troubleshooter. It is also important to be the doer, the closer, the support.With the right combination of roles in one team there can be magic.
Writing and illustrating means working alone most of the time, talking to yourself, fighting to stay disciplined and focused. Furthermore, I have witnessed teams dwindle or disappear or change as children’s publishing tries to find its new way forward. May author illustrators are despondent. Gone are the days of the shy writer living in a faraway place, afraid of the spotlight. Gone with them are potential masterpieces and best sellers. Gone are the reclusive but brilliant editors too.
Everyone has to be social media ready, loud(er), bigger, faster…
… but not necessarily better.
As publishing sheds its skin it is hard to know what will emerge. Hopefully something shiny and lightweight and full of energy.Teams will still be there, though, leaner perhaps, but still there.